China’s ‘pink economy’ blazes the trail for LGBT+ rights

China’s LGBT+ community – estimated at 70 million people strong – is a free-spending sector that has proven to be increasingly strategic in the fight for civil rights there. Comparatively speaking, Chinese LGBT+ activism cannot follow the same path as the West’s. There is no free press, and the ruling Chinese Communist Party has historically been suspicious of any expression of community solidarity outside its auspices, especially those rooted in community mobilization. That means businesses and the “pink yuan” must take the lead in a very robust way.

Gay socializing app called BlueD one example of the robust consumer power of China’s LGBT+ community. With 27 million members, BlueD is the most popular app of its kind on earth. The social app’s official endorsement wasn’t easily acquired. When it first launched as a website 16 years ago, it was frequently shutdown for its risqué content. But authorities have been appeased by the app’s proven commitment to social responsibility and its modern, clean aesthetic.

BlueD CEO and founder Geng Le runs an unabashed LGBT+ enterprise that serves as a model for inclusion and diversity. Just recently, BlueD held a Pink Economy Innovation Contest that attracted more than 60 business pitches targeting LGBT+ consumers. “The whole society is moving forward, it’s becoming more accepting, more diverse, and individual value is more emphasized,” Geng tells Fortune Magazine. “BlueD has a lot of dialogue in China, with officials, and we help educate society about the gay community,” says Geng. “We push everything forward.”

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